Physics honor society inducts five SIU students

By Kia Smith

Toasts to excellence filled Neckers Hall Friday as students received pins bonding them for life with other physicists.

Five students were inducted into the Sigma Pi Sigma physics national honor society. The induction marks the first time since 1996 SIU students have joined the organization. According to its national website, the society was founded in 1921 and is part of the Association of College Honor Societies.

The five psychics students inducted were senior Mitch Connolly, graduate student Jacob Huffstutler, junior Aaron Zolotor, junior Julianna Richie and graduate student Kaili Ranta.


Eric Chitambar, assistant professor of physics, said the department’s decreasing enrollment could be a factor in why no students have been inducted in the past 17 years.

“I don’t know the full history,” he said. “The former faculty adviser did retire, but I doubt funding had anything to do with it since being a member only costs $54 per person.”

Induction into the society comes with lifelong benefits, Chitambar said.

“Members receive quarterly emails about job opportunities or graduate school programs,” he said. “As a whole, Sigma Pi Sigma engages in many education-outreach programs across the countries, which members can join. Aside from that, membership in this society is a prestigious accolade that can be placed on one’s [curriculum vitae].”

Zolotor, a junior from Skokie, said he is ecstatic about his induction.

“I feel like I have really accomplished something,” he said. “It makes me want to succeed at higher levels and I couldn’t help but feel relaxed at the pinning ceremony.”

Potential inductees must be in the top one-third of their graduating class and must complete at least three semesters of physics coursework. They must also gain approval of every professor they’ve taken classes with in order to qualify for membership.


“As members, we have to maintain high academic scholarship, give back to the community and maintain the honor of the society,” Zolotor said.

The society’s mission statement is divided into four dimensions: honor, encouragement, service and fellowship.

“What is essentially valuable is the networking now available,” Zolotor said. “Many successful physicists have been inducted over the years and belonging to the same organization as they do gives me greater access that I may not have otherwise had.”

For more information on Sigma Pi Sigma, please visit

Kia Smith can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @KiaSmith__ or 536-3311 ext. 268.